Another cut is coming to Shoreline Community College, but this one has nothing to do with the state budget and will help students.
The SCC Board of Trustees at the April 22, 2009, meeting unanimously approved a plan that will trim the college’s most popular transfer degree - Associate in Arts and Sciences, Option A - to 90 credits by dropping Physical Education and Intra-American Studies as graduation requirements.
Students have graduation
So, the transfer degrees at Shoreline Community College are moving to a 90-credit requirement. That’s good news for incoming students who had been faced with the prospect of taking and paying for more than 90 credits, but what about current students?
The answer, says SCC Vice President of Academic Affairs John Backes, is on page 42 of the current college catalog, which says:
“Continuous Enrollment refers to the option students have to elect to graduate under the provisions of the official catalog in effect at the time they first started at SCC or at the time they apply to graduate, providing ten years have not lapsed and they have remained continuously enrolled at Shoreline Community College.”
The college generally produces a new catalog every two years, but most of the time there are minimal changes. However, with the move to 90-credit degrees, the catalog scheduled to be published later this spring will have an impact.
Current students who anticipate graduation after the new catalog is published can choose to meet the new 90-credit requirement instead of a potentially higher credit threshold.
“This should help students,” Backes said.
“The state requires 90 credits, but over the years, Shoreline Community College has added requirements that made our degree 95 credits,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs John Backes who proposed the change. “That’s more than any other (community and technical college) in the state. Requiring 95 credits puts SCC at a disadvantage in the competitive Puget Sound region.”
Faculty Senate Council President Amy Kinsel told the Trustees it was a long difficult process, but that students would be the beneficiaries. “We want our students to be as competitive as possible,” Kinsel said. “This will put them in a much better spot when they compete for spots at the University of Washington and other four-year institutions.”
The written presentation to the trustees says that reducing the required credits to 90 would:
- Better meet the requirements of state-negotiated Major-Related Program (MRP) Direct Transfer Agreements (DTAs);
- Increase opportunities for transfer students to be major-ready when they arrive at four-year universities;
- Not require students to earn more credits than they are permitted to transfer to baccalaureate institutions;
- Compare favorably with degrees offered by competing institutions;
- Match the number of credits required in SCC’s Associate of Science degrees;
- Cost students less in time and money.
In addition, Kinsel wrote that she anticipates the change will increase degree completion rates, an important consideration because the state funding model for community and technical colleges includes degree completion as a factor.
Backes has said that such a basic change couldn’t have occurred without strong involvement from faculty. He also said that it didn’t come without much conversation and a full airing of concerns. “I deeply appreciate the difficult work done by our faculty,” Backes said after the meeting. “More importantly, I’m sure our students will appreciate their work.”
Illustrating the close involvement of faculty, Kinsel wrote and presented most of the material and responded to questions at the Board meeting.
The issue is a math problem: too many course requirements to get to the 90-credit goal. Transfer degrees have specific requirements including general education and so-called distribution requirements. Those generally add up to 60 credits, but SCC required an additional five credits in multicultural courses, five credits in Intra-American Studies and three credits in Physical Education for 73 credits. SCC students then had 22 credits of electives available for a 95-credit degree. In addition to being over 90 credits, a number of programs require students have at least 25 elective credits.
“We were requiring students to take more than 90 credits to get our degree, but they can transfer only 90 credits to four-year schools,” Backes said. “Students just need the credits, not the degree, so many were leaving before they qualified for our degree.”
The process to get to 90 credits began this past fall with information gathering and discussions to weigh alternatives.
In February, the Faculty Senate Council circulated a list of 14 options and ultimately sent three to Backes for his review. “As you can imagine, it was very difficult to come to a single recommendation,” Kinsel told the Trustees. The three options were:
1) Remove Intra-American Studies as a degree requirement and keep electives at 22 credits;
2) Remove Physical Education as a degree requirement and reduce electives to 20 credits;
3) Remove both Intra-American Studies and Physical Education as degree requirements and increase electives to 25 credits.
Not on the table at the recommendation of faculty was removal of the multicultural component. “One of the most significant pieces of feedback we got from faculty was to not change or touch in any way the multicultural requirement,” Kinsel said. Board Chair Shoubee Liaw asked about the differences between the multicultural class and Intra-Amercian Studies.
“The multicultural class provides base level understanding,” Kinsel said, adding that Intra-American Studies classes are aimed at specific pieces of the broader area of study. “Kind of like English 101 vs. a literature class.”
After review, Backes picked Option 3 and informed the Faculty Senate Council which then polled all faculty members. That poll resulted in a 93-22 vote in favor of the change that was adopted by the Trustees.
Despite removal as degree requirements, Shoreline will continue to offer classes in both Intra-American Studies and Physical Education. Kinsel said Intra-American Studies classes do satisfy Social Science and Humanities requirements. “I’m very optimistic that the multicultural requirement will give students the foundation to further explore Intra-American Studies,” Kinsel said. “And, PE will satisfy the elective requirements.”
Backes said this won’t be the last credit-requirement change for SCC transfer degrees. While the Associate in Arts and Sciences - Option A degree is the most popular transfer degree, there are other degrees that also carry more than 90 credits. At the meeting, Kinsel used the business degree, which requires 98 credits, as an example.
“Our goal is to get all the degrees reviewed and revised by the end of spring,” Backes said, adding that potential changes must still go through a review process.